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Buddhist abbot given a 2-year sentence for fighting illiteracy

AsiaNews, April 4, 2012

Dharamsala, India -- After days of detention incommunicado, Khenpo Gyewala, the abbot of Gyegyel Zogchen Monastery, was sentenced to two years in prison for "anti-state activity".

A highly respected scholar, he is also known for his work in the field of education and his support for religious freedom in Tibet. After his arrest, police prevented him from contacting his family. His sister Boyang suffered a fatal heart attack when she learnt of his arrest.

The Venerable Khenpo went "missing" on 8 March, when he was unlawfully detained along with 13 other Tibetans in Zatoe County, Qinghai Province. Unlike the abbot, the latter were released on 25 March.

Sources told the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy that a relative of Khenpo was called on 28 March to the Zatoe County Public Security Bureau (PSB) office, where he was allowed to speak with the abbot on the phone for three minutes. Before that, the relative was warned not to mention the death of Khenpo's sister.

During the brief conversation, Khenpo told his relative to look after Monsel School, the school he founded to counter growing illiteracy among Tibetans.

The abbot also said that he underwent 'enormous hardships' during his detention but that they had ended after he was sentenced. However, he could not name the place where he was imprisoned.

Khenpo's case shows once more that China is only capable of using the iron fist to suppress Tibetan demand for autonomy and religious freedom.

In another case, Communist authorities convicted 11 Tibetans on 22 March for their involvement in peaceful protest marches. Sentences ranging between 3 and 13 years in prison were handed down "for inciting social disorder". In Drango and Sertha, other protests were crushed in blood on 23 and 24 January.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Tibetan parliament-in-exile's Speaker Penpa Tsering said, "detentions and convictions have become a constant feature in the history of Tibet. Our people have the right to protest and they do so peacefully. Beijing however has no intention of heeding our voice. We shall therefore continue along the path laid out by the Dalai Lama, and seek religious and cultural autonomy without the use of violence. China uses too much of that already."


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